My initial thought when beginning Poison Study was that it was definitely going to be a hit or miss. Luckily, it was closer to a hit for me.
Although Poison Study may not be the most sophisticated book, for YA fantasy it was surprisingly good. Yelena is a teenage girl in jail for murder, something she openly admits to. Unapologetic for her actions, she has been rotting in the dungeons of Ixia for months when she’s offered the position of Food Taster for the Commander, which essentially means if anyone attempts to poison Ixia’s leader, she’ll be the one getting poisoned first. Trained by her handler Valek, Yelena must learn to defend herself and her Commander and hopes to plan an escape. However, Yelena quickly finds it will be much more difficult to survive outside the castle walls than she thought (mostly because she’s a murderer, even if she had a good reason for it). All in all, Poison Study is a book about a girl who for the first time in her life must learn not to run away, but instead to confront her past while attempting to stay alive in her present.
I personally tend to feel that YA fiction can be pretty predictable. While some of Snyder’s storyline was typical for the genre, the world-building in Poison Study provided an awesome backdrop for Yelena’s story. The kingdom of Ixia was believable and interesting, and the culture she created made Yelena’s character seem a lot more real. The characters were great. I could see Yelena change and grow throughout the book as she shed the girl she was in the dungeon and tried to figure out who she was supposed to be. Snyder threw in quite a few twists that I hadn’t seen coming and had me changing my opinion on one specific character time and time again, and didn’t leave any of the characters one-sided or forgotten.
My one and only complaint about Poison Study is the Yelena and Valek storyline, which probably makes me cynical and annoying. While the emotions felt real, that YA romance has been told time and time before.
All in all, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder was a pleasant surprise. While I’m not sure I’m in it for the long haul through the entire series, it was a great start. (Followed by: Magic Study)